Health & Wellness

“Trojan Horse” Antibiotic Fools Superbugs

Recent test results suggest that we may finally have a way to save ourselves from antibiotic-resistant infections


By Katrina Caruso


The rise in recent years of superbugs—bacteria that are immune to life-saving antibiotics—has created the ideal conditions for a global crisis. Unless something changes, by 2050, 10 million people will be dying every year from an antibiotic-resistant infection, according to a report from the UK commission The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. Scientists have therefore been striving to find or create new ways to fight antibiotic resistance.

Now, according to study results recently published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, a new antibiotic looks like the beginning of a solution.

During an infection, the body’s immune system creates an environment low in iron; the infecting bacteria respond by increasing their iron intake. The new antibiotic, cefiderocol, binds to iron and—just as the Trojans famously and foolishly took into their city a wooden horse full of Greek soldiers—the iron-starved bacteria accept the antibiotic inside their defences, and the antibiotic begins to fight the infection.

In a clinical trial involving 448 patients with kidney or urinary tract infections, the drug was shown to be safe, well-tolerated, and as effective as current treatments.

Drug resistance has been a growing concern since around 1997, but more recent years have seen more and more cases of antibiotics becoming ineffective at combating infections. In Europe alone, there are at least 25,000 deaths each year from drug-resistant infections—worldwide, the number is currently about 700,000. This “Trojan Horse” drug provides a ray of hope.

Photo: iStock/MR1805.